Petersburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,420. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines Petersburg (along with the city of Colonial Heights) with Dinwiddie County for statistical purposes. It is located on the Appomattox River (a tributary of the longer larger James River flowing east to meet the southern mouth of the Chesapeake Bay at the Hampton Roads harbor and the Atlantic Ocean). The city is just 21 miles (34 km) south of the historic commonwealth (state) capital city of Richmond. The city's unique industrial past and its location as a transportation hub combined to create wealth for Virginia and the Middle Atlantic and Upper South regions of the nation.
Early in the colonial era of the 18th century, Petersburg was the final destination on the Upper Appomattox Canal Navigation System because of its location on the Appomattox River with its connection to the James River to the east at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line (the head of navigation of rivers on the U.S. East Coast) and the tying in with the James River shipping traffic was a strategic place for transportation and commercial activities. It connected commerce as far inland as Farmville, Virginia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains chain, to shipping further east into the Chesapeake Bay and North Atlantic Ocean. For similar reasons, 17th century era Fort Henry was built at the order of the Virginia House of Burgesses at Petersburg in 1645 to protect the river traffic.
As railroads were being constructed and extended in the state in the 1830s and 1840s, Petersburg was developed as a major transfer point for both north-south and east-west competitors.